Press

Press


TV & Video
A compilation of television interviews with Dr. Mac


ARTICLES ABOUT DR. MAC

Use Music to Develop Kids’ Skills and Character

Edutopia: The George Lucas Educational Foundation
By Maurice Elias
3/19/09

Is music important in your life? Is it important in your kids’ lives? Is there a reason so many children walk around with an iPod? Is there any good reason why we don’t use music more often when we teach social, emotional, and character development (SECD) to children? If you’ve answered yes to the first three questions and no to the last one, then read on!

The Power of Song

I asked Don MacMannis, an expert on children’s music, to share with me some of his ideas about the appeal of music and its unique potential for teaching young children SECD skills. He responded, “Music has positive affects on people’s emotions and creativity. When we sing together, we synchronize our breathing and feel more connected.

“Music is also an effective, almost magical medium for learning and retaining information,” he adds. “It activates three different centers of the brain at the same time: language, hearing, and rhythmic motor control. By inducing emotions, it also creates a heightened condition of awareness and mental acuity. Words paired with music are far easier to retain. As an example, most of us can remember the words and meanings of songs we haven’t heard for years. Isn’t it interesting how you still remember your ABCs?”

The latest work by Oliver Sacks, a world-renowned neuroscientist, supports Don’s views. In Sacks’s 2007 book, Musicophilia, he writes, “The perception of music and the emotions it can stir is not solely dependent on memory, and music does not have to be familiar to exert its emotional power. I have seen deeply demented patients weep or shiver as they listen to music they have never heard before, and I think that they can experience the entire range of feelings the rest of us can, and that dementia, at least at these times, is no bar to emotional depth. Once one has seen such responses, one knows that there is still a self to be called upon, even if music, and only music, can do the calling.”

Many of us have emotional experiences and memories that are deeply tied to music. So let’s put this modality to work to improve our kids’ emotional development. If you go to Dr. Mac Music, you will see some excellent examples of using music to teach SECD. The most recent is Ready to Rock Kids, Vol. 3, for ages 4-9. It’s a great example of someone taking the research evidence and putting it into practice.

Don MacMannis and his creative team have created original songs for the CD, and the lyrics are designed to build skills and character. There are also many complementary activities to help you reinforce the messages in the songs via a variety of modalities: writing, speaking, acting, drawing, building, creating, and movement. The songs and activities also reinforce the everyday benefits of characteristics such as respect, responsibility, and honesty and of abilities such as resolving conflicts nonviolently and facing and overcoming fears.

These are the kinds of materials that you can use across the curriculum. And you can use them in unstructured or transition times or in after-school programs. Some teachers like to use a song to start the day, focusing on one song for the week.

Regardless, you might be surprised by how quickly kids learn the words and meanings of the songs. The songs, of course, provide messages and skill development that students can then recall and focus on to support a positive classroom climate.

Learning Through Lyrics

Here is an example: First, look at this excerpt from a song, minus the wonderfully catchy tune. Talk It Out teaches children to use their words to resolve conflicts with others. The song makes a subtle but very important point: It can be as bad to ignore issues as it can be to confront them violently.

It’s a magical moment, just like a miracle’s occurred / It’s a magical moment, whenever everyone feels heard.

Instead of how we blame, or turn and walk away / Instead of calling names, or pretending that it’s all OK / Instead of how we frown, or make a yucky face / Why don’t we look around and find a magic place.

(Chorus) And, sit down and talk it out / Yeah, sit down and talk it out / ‘Cause what’s been missin’ is a little listening / So come on and talk it out.

It does not take a lot of imagination to see how this song can lead students and teachers to create a special talk-it-out space in the classroom.

Here is another terrific song activity, called the Listening Blues, which teaches kids the importance of listening: Pair children up and have them talk to each other at the same time, with neither child listening to the other. (For example, you can have them talk about what they did over the weekend.) Then ask them to repeat what their partner said.

Next, have them speak one at a time, listening carefully to each other, and check again to see if they can repeat their partner’s stories. Afterward, have a group discussion around the following questions:

Were you better at reporting back after speaking one at a time?

How could you tell if someone was listening to you?

How did it feel to be listened to and understood?

Why is it sometimes so hard to keep from interrupting?

What are some of the most important times to make sure others are listening to you?

What are some ways to be sure others have listened to you and understood what you have said?

Of course, the activity has value just as it is, but the synergy of linking it to a song will enhance the message for children. As Oliver Sacks points out, music is so fundamental to how we live and learn that it makes a lot of sense to incorporate it more into our SECD instruction.

Perhaps you are already including music-based, SECD-related projects in your classroom. Please comment and share them!

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Tunes for Kids Are Summer Fun and More

From the Santa Barbara Independent
Thursday, August 2, 2007
By Beth Taylor-Schott (Contact)

Although she was playing it cool, my friend was panicking when I went to see her the other day. Many people might not have noticed, but we mothers pick up on this panic in each other right away. It’s that I’m-afraid-my-kid-isn’t-going-to-get-something-I-want-them-to-have panic. It’s the kind of panic that fuels viciousness about preschool admissions and fist-fights over Tickle Me Elmos. A week prior to this, I had casually dropped off a copy of a Ready to Rock Kids CD and the activity book that went with it. I mentioned I was supposed to be doing a piece about this and asked her to see if she could get her son, who was just about to turn six, to listen to the CD.

Ready to Rock Kids is an album created by Dr. Mac (Don MacMannis), a singer/songwriter who is a child and family psychologist and the clinical director of the Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara. He is also music director and songwriter for the PBS hit series, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, so it’s safe to say he has a sense of what kids like. Ready to Rock Kids is aimed at kids ages 4-9 and does for contemporary mainstream music — including rock, rap, and reggae — what Baby Einstein does for classical music; it adapts it to younger ears. “When I interview kindergarten through third graders and ask them what music they like, they talk about music that is developmentally inappropriate … by artists like Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and a variety of rap artists. Kids are really attracted to the quality and rhythm of adult music. They’re no longer interested in preschool music and need a sound of their own. Ready to Rock fills that gap.”

What will likely be most important to parents, though, is the lyrics all support social and emotional development. It is for EQ what Hap Palmer was for IQ. Ready to Rock 2, for example, includes songs about handling feelings, dealing with life’s ups and downs, and celebrating diversity. The CDs and workbooks are not just for individual family use, but also provide a curriculum for classroom lessons. According to Dr. Mac, “Happy kids learn better! Hundreds of studies show that even when time is taken away from the traditional ‘Three R’s’ to help children with their social and emotional concerns, academic scores improve.”

All of this sounds like a great idea and the program has gotten recognition from many teachers and parenting groups, including a Teacher’s Choice Award, an iParenting Media Award, and a Dr. Toy Best Vacation Products Award. S.B. parent/teacher educator and nonviolent communication expert Kelly Lee Kist offers kudos of her own. “If I were teaching kids this age, I know I would use it,” she said. “I was particularly impressed that the album talked about friendship as something that needs to be nurtured and cultivated, not just something ‘precious’ that you ‘get’ or ‘have.’”

But however many awards Ready to Rock wins, what matters is whether or not it works with kids. Which brings us back to my slightly panicky friend. Turns out her son had made her promise that she would ask me if he could keep the review copy and if he could color in the workbook. During the weekend, despite the fact that they were all extremely busy, he had listened to it, she claimed, 27 times. In particular, he had listened to the first song on the album, a doo-wop concoction called “Bye, Bye Bully,” over and over.

This song had resonance for him because, as a kindergartener, he had problems with several boys who had bullied him and other students — despite the anti-bullying policy at his school — all year long. His parents had been supportive in talking about it with him and helping him process his feelings, but there is a limit to what parents can do, even for kindergarteners. His mom told me that something happened for him in listening to Ready to Rock. The social support message in the music made him feel much more empowered. She noticed him singing the chorus to himself and found that he was able to talk about his bullying experience with more self-confidence and understanding. Guess what he got from me for his sixth birthday? Now I’m going to have to order a whole bunch more.
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Crooning For Kids – Local psychologist, songwriter uses music to teach important social, emotional skills.

A Santa Barbara News-Press article by Starshine Roshell
Santa Barbara, CA – December 26, 2002

Psychologists have been known to use all sorts of instruments in the interest of mental health: inkblots, analyst couches, pendulum pocket watches.

But tubas? Banjos? Harmonicas?

Local therapist Don MacMannis believes these tools — combined with message-loaded lyrics — are unparalleled when it comes to teaching important social and emotional skills to kids. “There’s no better way,” said Dr. MacMannis, 53, who is also a professional song writer. ” Songs tend to get planted in our brains like little seeds that grow with time.”

The crop he’s currently tending is “A Pocket of Tunes,” an album of children’s songs he wrote and sang on with six local kids. The CD is a collection of ditties about sharing, saying “Please,” cooperating and being kind to friends. It comes with a work book full of activities to help the concepts take root in youngsters’ minds.

“My mission is to try and use music as a vehicle for helping children get along better in the world,” said Dr. Mac, as his young clients know him. “There’s all kinds of research showing that parents and teachers want to teach kids good values, but they feel like they’re failing at the task. Given my background as a psychologist, and someone who’s specialized in kids for 30 years, I’ve got a little bit of an inside view of what kids are struggling with.”

Dr. MacMannis and his wife Debra Manchester, who have two teenage sons, are co-directors of The Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara. He sees clients of all ages there two days a week.

The other three days are spent in the cozy backyard music studio of his Montecito home, where he keeps a keyboard, mixing board, computer and small altar topped with incense and figurines representing various religions.

Laid-back with a soft voice and gentle nature, Mr. MacMannis’ musical career began while attending Dartmouth College, where he was in a close harmony singing group. Years later, he began dabbling in traditional songwriting, but his wife convinced him to write children’s music instead.

“She said, ‘You’re like a kid, you love kids. That’s what you’re supposed to do,’ ” he said. “I said , ‘You know what? You’re right.’ ”
Today, he writes music for PBS’ animated children’s series “Jay Jay the Jet Plane,” and is constantly inspired to write more. He gets up almost every night to write down ideas, and says he already has enough songs for at least two more albums like A Pocket of Tunes. “I can’t stop it,” he said. “My soul is singing to me. It’s like the phone ringing and I’ve got to answer it.”

One reason he loves writing children’s music is the diversity of musical styles it allows. “I can have a country song follow doo-wop follow a James Taylor kind of thing follow a rap song,” he said. “The possibilities are limitless.”

He believes most children’s music sells kids short. “Kids really have finely tuned ears and they like their parents’ music better than the sing-song, folksy kind of stuff,” he said. “They’re attracted to it because it’s exciting. It pulses. It’s alive. (But) if they’re going to be listening to it over and over again, why not teach them something that’s really valuable . . . rather than just singing about making waffles or a platypus down by the bay? That stuff’s fun too, but why not throw in some important messages?”

Based on recent studies about children’s emotional and social skills, Mr. MacMannis thinks the most important lesson he can teach kids is how to understand and control their often overwhelming feelings.

To that end, he writes lyrics like, “Don’t want to be left out, let me play, too,” and “If communication’s your trip, put your finger to your lip, because you can’t be talking and listening at the same time.”

To record his album, he auditioned 48 local kids recommended by talent agents, theater troupes and music teachers . He chose a handful ranging in age from 7 to 12, and brought them into a recording studio for a few months of vocal work. Though 13-year-old singer Kelci Hahn was older than the intended audience of 4 to 9,she learned a thing or two from the experience. The tune that hit home with her was “Together,” about the value of spending time with friends.

“I love that song,” she said. “It was fun to sing, and I thought it had a really strong meaning. It shows you’re able to love anyone you want to.”

A smattering of teachers across the country are using the CD and workbook as a way to teach lessons about character. Carole MacKenzie, a teacher at Adams School, is using them with her first grade class.

“The songs are beautifully produced and touch on the feelings, frustrations and friendship issues of children,” she wrote in a review on Amazon.com. “They provide a great discussion starter, and speak to the children on their level.”

Dr. MacMannis uses them in his private practice, too. He often “prescribes” the song ” Bad Thoughts” to young clients with recurring nightmares, and it has proven just the cure many of them need.

After listening to the song, which concludes with the empowering chant “Go away bad thoughts!”, one boy marched into the therapy office and said proudly, “I’m the boss of my thoughts!”

“I felt so appreciative that I’ve discovered something so useful,” Dr. MacMannis said. “I can just give them a song, almost like a prescription, and they feel better. Then they’re off and running.”

The CD and workbook A Pocket of Tunes is available at Chaucer’s, Tecolote and local Borders bookstores, and through www.APocketofTunes.com or 1-877-886-3723. It costs $16.95.

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ARTICLES BY DR. MAC

The Latest “Medicine” for Kids Today by Dr. Mac

When penicillin was discovered, it was widely publicized and used to treat infection.

A different kind of “infection” exists today. Parents and teachers nationwide are overwhelmed with the challenge of young children being rude, irresponsible, teased, bullied, shy or unable to tolerate frustration!

The medicine or solutions for these problems has also been “discovered” but not yet applied…it is the teaching of social and emotional skills.

In the home, parents know the importance of teaching these skills, but complain that they don’t have the tools. In the classroom, the latest research provides solid evidence for the importance of teaching children these skills, yet most schools only support an emphasis on academics.

We are putting the cart before the horse when we only focus on academics and ignore what else is happening in kids’ lives. A child who has just been teased out in the playground has very little attention left for the math problem being presented on the blackboard. When children are preoccupied, they have far less “memory” or attention available for learning. They are at high risk for later problems in school and in the workplace in their adult lives.

There is a fun and almost magical way to help them… with the songs and activities of Ready to Rock Kids! These songs, as with all music, light up the brain in at least a dozen different centers, engaging children in a way that helps them to learn the most important lessons in life, – how to get along better in the world and bring out the best in others.

And as far as the academics are concerned? Happy kids learn better!

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Top 10 Parenting Tips for the Holidays

Believe it or not, the holidays rank right up there on the stress scales with asking the boss for a raise! Whether celebrating at home or on the road, most of us need to learn how to be together more gracefully. Here are some practical ideas to help bring out the best in everyone:

  • Remember the big picture. A holiday can be a great opportunity to create fun and lasting memories. Consider making learning, loving and living in the moment your highest priority.
  • Have realistic expectations. Thinking the holidays will be perfect with the whole family together can be a set-up for disappointment. People get sick, Aunt Ruthie might be late again, and the kids excitement can sometimes morph into meltdowns.
  • Set realistic goals. Family meetings are an ideal way to make group decisions about plans and help everyone feel respected for their preferences. Since it adds to the familys stress to be super busy, decide on the top priorities together and prune the rest, (just like you prune the tree.)
  • Dont over-indulge the children. Help your children learn the value of giving instead of just getting. Insist on mutual gift giving, and create a family service activity that helps others in need and reminds your children to count their blessings.
  • Honor individual differences. Family members often have different preferences around food, activities, how much time to be active vs. relaxing, etc. Its a fabulous time to learn to compromise and take turns leading and following. If elders are present, have them share memories of family traditions.
  • Share appreciations and praise. Families do best when everybody (including adults) feels appreciated. Notice the good things and praise your kids, aiming for at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative statements.
  • Dont relax rules and routines too much. Younger children cant sleep in, so later or irregular bedtimes during the holidays can create sleep deprivation and irritability. Kids thrive when parents provide lots of love and warmth, but also firmness and structure.
  • Attend to family feelings. Sometimes kids just need a good cry to release their excitement and letdown. When tensions flare, a good repair kit is to have family members work things out by sitting face to face, listening to and acknowledging each others feelings. Take the time, as appropriate, to process feelings about family members or friends who are absent.
  • Allow some down time. Families are often not accustomed to being together all the time. Allow some ebbs and flows of being together and apart, and of quiet and more active times.
  • Listen to your own needs. Create time to be apart from the children and nurture yourself and your adult relationships. Its a win-win situation. One of the greatest gifts you can offer your children is your own sense of happiness and well-being.

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Parenting Tools for Back-to-School

Now that summer’s almost over, it’s time to close down the lemonade stands and dust off the old backpacks. Twenty percent of American families move to a new home each year, – half of them during the summer. Add to this the number of kids starting school for the first time or who are graduating to their next school, and about a third of all children will be going to a new school.

The only thing constant in life is change. New school or not, this is an excellent time to provide children with social and emotional tools to do their best in the face of life’s inevitable transitions:

  1. First, ask how your child is feeling. Some parents make the mistake of either filling their child with their own fears, or telling them not to be scared about the first day. First, simply listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings. If they appear or are acting upset, suggest that “Lots of children feel sad or scared. Are you feeling something like that?”
  2. Now reassure. Once the feelings are on the table and normalized, your child can more easily hear your words of encouragement and reassurance that everything’s going to be okay.
  3. Help them view the change as an opportunity. Even though it’s normal to have uncomfortable feelings of anticipation, the butterflies in their tummies can also playfully be viewed as “excitement” instead of just anxiety.
  4. Program positive thinking. As much as possible, scout out the school, teacher or classmates ahead of time so your child can mentally rehearse what things will be like. Have them close their eyes at bedtime and imagine how their experience will be fun and positive.
  5. Re-establish routines. Providing a sense of security gives children a firm foundation for tackling the unknown. Keep things loving and positive, but with a return to the predictable routine. Sleep is essential to reducing fears and irritability. Spend a few days before the first day of school getting your child back on the new sleep schedule.
  6. Create a ritual of planning. Create a checklist of things to do ahead of time, including purchases, and make it a fun adventure around decision-making. You can also avoid last-minute panic by packing the backpack and laying out the first day’s “special” clothes the night before.
  7. Talk about your own experiences around transitions. It’s helpful for parents to teach by example. Share not only our childhood triumphs, but also times that, even as an adult, you overcame the butterflies and are happy you made a change.
  8. Coach them to reach out. Children often wait for other kids to initiate contact with them rather than making the first move themselves. Encourage them to smile, say “Hi” to those they know, and reach out and introduce themselves to new kids.
  9. Deal with your own feelings. Facing and constructively expressing your own feelings about your child’s transition provides them with a great model for letting go, and also helps to clear some family tension that could otherwise affect them adversely.
  10. Celebrate the day! How about a special healthy breakfast and end of the day celebration for their accomplishment? Give yourself a pat on the back as well!

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Children’s Fears of War and Terrorism: How Parents Can Help

By Don R. MacMannis, Ph.D.
Santa Barbara, CA – March 12, 2003

These are uncertain, turbulent times, colored as they are by fears about war and terrorism. As a result, children as well as adults are experiencing higher levels of stress. When a flu bug is going around, conscientious parents make sure their child is getting plenty of sleep, vitamins, and a healthy diet to build their immune system. How can we, in a similar fashion, build up our children’s capacity to deal with current stresses?

Although there is no magic pill, there is a healthy diet of social and emotional skills that you can provide children. Increasing these skills is the most effective way to help them deal with the current threat, as well as learn valuable lessons to last a lifetime. It is normal for them to feel afraid, yet there are things we can do to help our kids function optimally in these trying times. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Discuss the concerns that your children have by first asking them what they are hearing from peers, school and the news. Don’t push the issue. It’s best not to fill them with fears they don’t have, but also realize that concerns don’t go away if we try to ignore them. If they are worried, reassure with words like “I can see you are feeling really scared. This is a hard time for us.” “I know we’ll feel better when it’s over.” Avoid telling them “Everything will be okay,” because if something does happen, you’ll lose their trust.
  2. Help them separate imagined from realistic fears. Entertainment and real events can blend together and their imaginations can run wild, – like thinking that a war with Iraq will be like Star Wars. Many kids seeing the twin towers falling insisted it was a movie. Others seeing the image repeated on the news thought the event was happening over and over again. Children need to know that very few people are terrorists and that the war will be fought far away.
  3. Don’t hesitate to limit children’s exposure to the media. A young child’s experience of “the world” is very different from that of adults. In many ways, they live in a container or bubble that is their immediate social environment- their family, friends and school. They need protection to preserve that bubble of safety. The news and violent programming can be too upsetting. If you want to watch the news, do so after they go to bed. It isn’t helpful for them to see people trying on gas masks in hardware stores. If they insist on watching, be with them so that you can gauge their reactions and talk about it.
  4. As you deal with your own stresses and emotions, you surely help your kids. They can literally feel your feelings and stress. The greatest gift you can give them is your own sense of well-being. Provide patience, safety, support and consistency to help them feel secure. If they sense your distress or fears, they can feel overwhelmed and unsettled. Share your own fears but do so with restraint.
  5. Use this as an opportunity to teach life-long social and emotional skills. Programs are available to provide kids with songs, lessons, and activities to learn positive thinking, hopefulness, and prevent “bad” or obsessive thoughts or feelings from overwhelming them. It’s an ideal time to learn about cooperation and consideration, and remember to celebrate differences rather than stereotype and blame.
  6. Provide additional constructive outlets for children’s feelings such as drawing and writing stories and poems.
  7. Help them take actions to feel involved. Include them in the activities that express your own sentiments. “Here’s one thing we can do about it…” Some may want to send letters or drawings to military families or people in public safety jobs. Tell them “We are doing everything we can to keep safe.”
  8. Help them feel loved and safe by maintaining rituals of connection and keeping normal routines, rules and expectations. The only places to soften a bit might be if siblings want to share rooms, or if the bedtime “going to sleep” ritual needs to be a little bit longer for a time.
  9. Allow some acting out of war “play” to vent frustrations, but don’t let it become aggressive. You can also encourage playing the roles of helpers, healers, and protectors such as police.
  10. Realize that some kids under stress show overwhelm and acting out, some are quiet, and some become immune and numb. Exposure to video games and violent movies makes it more difficult for many kids to understand the reality of war and destruction.
  11. Although some kids are aware of the stress and their feelings connected to it, others may be showing signs or symptoms without necessarily knowing what they are upset about. Watch for signs of sadness, aggression towards others, new fears that may seem unrelated to the war, or problems with making “bad” thoughts go away. Many children will start acting younger than their age and not want to leave your lap.
  12. If a family member is leaving for the war, let the school know so that your child can be nurtured accordingly. It’s helpful to create the sense of a close, connected community.
  13. Find support for yourself from local groups, church, synagogue or friends, and if needed, don’t be afraid to seek professional help from counselors and psychologists.

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Top 10 Tools for Surviving Family Vacations

Now that school’s out and everyone wants to play, Americans are going on vacation in unprecedented numbers. Having a flashlight and flares for a car trip is a great idea. So is a travel bag of games and CDs.

But what about a repair kit for family feelings? Or a road map to harmony? Even a dream vacation in an idyllic setting can become a nightmare if the kids are at each other’s throats. Here are some practical parenting tools to help bring out the best in everybody:

  1. Remember the big picture. A family vacation can be a perfect opportunity to create fun and lasting memories. Consider making learning, loving and living in the moment your highest priority, rather than getting to a particular destination.
  2. Share appreciations and praise. Families do best when everybody (including adults) feels appreciated. Notice the good things and praise your kids, aiming for at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative statements.
  3. Don’t relax the rules and routines too much. Younger children can’t “sleep in,” so later or irregular bedtimes can create sleep deprivation and irritability. Kids thrive when parents provide lots of love and warmth, but also firmness and structure.
  4. Give lots of time to blow off steam. Being away can be exciting but also stressful. Join in and help your children express themselves physically and emotionally through exercise and activities.
  5. Provide practice at making decisions. If done in moderation, handing over some decisions to the kids is a terrific way for them to learn planning and thinking skills. Going somewhere new puts everybody on an exciting, equal footing.
  6. Have family meetings. This is an ideal way to air feelings, make group decisions and help everyone feel respected for their preferences. Don’t forget that you’re all in the same boat. When tensions flare, it’s time to attend. If siblings aren’t getting along, a good “repair kit” is to have them work things out by sitting face to face, listening to and acknowledging each other’s feelings.
  7. Honor individual differences. Travel often highlights some differences between family members: preferences around food, activities, how much time to be active vs. relaxing, etc. It’s a fabulous time to learn to compromise and take turns leading and following. Some kids get homesick and may act younger and need more loving attention.
  8. Be prepared for idle times. In addition to the travel bag of games and CDs, have some games to use when you’re waiting or standing on lines (e.g., guessing which hand a coin is in). It’s also fun to let the kids safely scout out new places and come back to give you a report.
  9. Allow some down time. Families are often not accustomed to being together all the time. Allow some ebbs and flows of being together and apart, and of quiet and more active times.
  10. Listen to your own needs. Create time to be apart from the children and nurture yourself and your adult relationships. It’s a win-win situation. One of the greatest gifts you can offer your children is your own sense of happiness and well-being.

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OTHER RESOURCES

Set for Success: Building a Strong Foundation for School Readiness Based on the Social-Emotional Development of Young Children

Children entering school who are not socially and emotionally prepared are at high risk for early school problems, poor later school performance and difficulties in the workplace in their adult lives. However, recent research findings now provide powerful evidence that this important element of successful learning and school achievement is being neglected.

Set for Success: Building a Strong Foundation for School Readiness Based on the Social-Emotional Development of Young Children is a new report released this month by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, as part of the Kauffman Early Education Exchange conference series. This post-conference report compiles seven papers that present the latest scientific findings on the importance of social and emotional school readiness. The papers also provide compelling evidence of programs that help to prepare young children for early school success.

The typical concept of readiness for kindergarten has usually been thought of in terms of cognitive learning, such as numbers, colors and the alphabet. However, this report and others recently released, indicate that social and emotional school readiness is a precursor to learning. Before children can learn to read, they must learn basic social and emotional skills – such as the ability to tolerate frustration without “melting down” or acting aggressively, and the ability to be attentive and follow directions. Kindergarten teachers have reported that the single greatest challenge they face is that a majority of the children lack some or all of the needed social and emotional competencies needed to learn.

Timing is right for change

Scientific data now indicates that the time is right to build on the knowledge base and current enthusiasm for promoting school success. The following recommendations would enable our country to help our youngest children best prepare for school success:

Social-emotional development and academic achievement are not separate priorities, rather they must be understood as representing the continuum of development that is needed for children to grow up healthy and succeed in school.

The knowledge about the links between social, emotional, and cognitive development exists but needs to be more broadly disseminated to parents, teachers, caregivers and policymakers in order for public investment to be made in programs and practices proven to help young children succeed in school.

Programs need to provide training and education to promote social-emotional development and the importance of strong relationships between young children and their families, their teachers and their caregivers if young children are to succeed without the need for costly interventions in special education or juvenile justice.
For the entire report and a link to more information, go to: http://www.emkf.org/pages/314.cfm

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Survey: Parents doubt their skills
Wednesday, October 30, 2002 Posted: 12:44 PM EST (1744 GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) — Sixty-one percent of parents rate their generation as “fair” or “poor” at raising children, according to a study the results of which suggest that parents are struggling with instilling values in their kids.

The findings are part of a nationwide survey of parents conducted by Public Agenda, a nonpartisan think tank.

The survey found respondents indicating that there may be big gaps between parents’ efforts to teach good values to their children and their perceived success in doing so.

  • 83 percent of those polled said it is “absolutely essential” to teach self-control and self-discipline, but only 34 percent of the respondents said they have succeeded in teaching those values.
  • 91 percent of those asked said it is essential to teach honesty, but only 55 percent of them said they have succeeded in doing so.
  • The report also found that 53 percent of parents surveyed believe they are doing a worse job than their own parents did.

“This study suggests that, despite the efforts parents are making, they’re having trouble,” said Deborah Wadsworth, the president of Public Agenda. “They have no difficulty laying out a vision of the values they think essential to impart to their child, but succeeding at the job is another matter.”

The study, titled “A Lot Easier Said Than Done,” was based on telephone interviews conducted between July 31 and August 15 with a random sample of 1,607 parents or guardians of children aged 5 to 17.

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